Sonoma opposition builds on the Dairyman
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Shepherd Bliss | Apr 12, 2015

The following link to the front page story in today's Press Democrat, which mentions in passing our presentation in Jenner this evening, indicates that there might be more people than we expected. For those of you planning to come tonight, please come as early as you can. Spread this link to others, so that they might send online comments to the PD, as well as letters to the editor.

Press Democrat: Large winery proposal on Highway 12 to undergo full environmental review

The intention of this email is to provide some information about the Jenner gathering tomorrow. I was invited by Ken Sund to come to Jenner to speak about the growing number of large wineries as event centers proliferating in Sonoma County, which I have been writing about. I have not met Ken yet, but I have been impressed by the hard work he has done to organize this gathering, which has grown as it has developed.

I invited Will Parrish to join me there. He is an investigative reporter for the AVA (Anderson Valley Advertiser) in Mendocino. Years ago he did some important research about the wine industry and its power, including here in Sonoma County. He agreed to come and speak for up to 10 minutes. I have not met Will yet, though I have followed his work. He is featured in the recent, acclaimed film "Russian River: All Rivers." That film has a lot to do with the wine industry and how its excesses can damage watersheds. I am including its director, Bill Sorenson, who works with our group here in SoCo, in this email loop. He can let you know when and where showings are in your area or how to arrange them.

When I heard about the good work that Geoff Ellsworth does in Napa with respect to St. Helena, where he lives, and drawing together the Napa Vision 2050 group, I invited him to visit a few of us in SoCo in the early stages of developing what became the Preserve Rural Sonoma County (PRSC) group. We now have both a website and Facebook page under that name, which I would encourage you to visit. He agreed to come to Jenner and also speak for up to 10 minutes.

Judith works with the Westside neighbors in the Healdsburg countryside, who were instrumental in organizing 150 people to get Sonoma County to turn down the winery of celebrity chef Guy Fieri. They also recently were instrumental in down-sizing the Hop Kiln Winery's aspiration to grow and have additional events. I have asked her to speak for up to five minutes. The reason I asked the first two speakers to speak for 10 minutes and the other three for only 5 minutes is that as our team grew I realized that it would be important to allow enough time for Q&A with the audience, which I hope we can recruit to our common work. I hope that all of you will join Ken and I to welcome people when the arrive and introduce yourselves.

Rue Furch works with PRSC here in SoCo, as well as with numerous other groups, such as the Sonoma County Water Coalition. She is a former SoCo Planning Commissioner who understands how government works, from the inside. She has been involved in many struggles over the years and is a real asset to our common work.

Last month we had a meeting in Middletown, Lake County, which Elizabeth Montgomery of the Hidden Valley Lake Watershed group organized. There were about half a dozen of us there, including Geoff from Napa. She will probably not be able to attend the Jenner gathering. She has put me in touch with various Lake people, including Karl, who is apparently able to make it to Jenner. I would ask him to speak for up to 5 minutes. Though they have similarities, each of our local struggles differ. For example, while most of us seem to be working to contain wineries, a primary issue in Lake is the application of the Wild Diamond vineyard to border a sub-division of 6000 people.

I am also including Greg in this email loop, since he is from Lake, though he cannot make it to the Jenner meeting. We had our first exchange of emails yesterday. At the end of this email, I am including my email communication with Greg. He brings in the welcome participation of a small winery owner. This includes a link to my recent article on, which you can respond to by registering and describing what is happening in your area, if you would like. I began sending this article out yesterday morning to the national publications that I write for regularly and it already been posted by four of them.

The idea for what could happen in Jenner includes the following 4 related gatherings:

4 p.m. Geoff from Napa and Judith and Marc from Westside arrive at the Jenner Community Center, 10444 Highway 1, across the creek and behind the gas station, where Ken has put out a sign to help people find it. I have asked Geoff to facilitate that gathering, to which you are all invited, as are other activists whom you may know.

5 p.m. A potluck (please bring food and drink) to which all activists have been invited and you can invite more. Since I have a group of students from Sonoma State coming to Kokopelli Farm to learn about sustainable farming that day, I cannot arrive until about 5 p.m. I suggest that we start with a go-around with each person identifying who they are, where they live, and what their concerns are. I do not know how many people will come, but a conjecture would be perhaps up to a dozen.

One of our agendas will be to discuss a possible name for our regional group. Elizabeth in Lake suggested North Bay Wine Watch and Greg below extended that to NorCal Wine Watch. At least one person in PRSC does not like either of those. I would welcome responses from you to those two names and any others that you might discuss. This would probably be our first important decision. The Napa activists have named their group Napa Vision 2050. Some people feel that is not specific enough, since the intention of this new regional group would be to focus on wineries. However, we are not against the wine industry as a whole. There are many grapegrowers and vintners who make helpful contributions to their communities.

My idea is that promptly, if possible, at 6:30 Ken would introduce me and why he invited me. I would then give a brief history of SoCo's struggle that prevented the wine industry in 2001 from spraying our homes and farms, without our permission, in fear that the glassy winger sharpshooter pest would damage their mono-crop. I would mention our ongoing struggle against "bad apple" Paul Hobbs for putting in a conventional winery bordering on 5 schools with around 700 students on Watertrough Rd. in the Sebastopol countryside. I would then introduce Will, who would speak. After he speaks I would introduce each of you, in turn, to speak. I will be keeping time, so we can all speak and then get the the Q&A.

After the public part of our time together, if anyone else is available, we could have a post-meeting. Geoff plans to stay over, as I might be able to. Ken has a friend who may have rooms to rent. During this time, we could consider what next steps might be. I am available to go to Lake and elsewhere to meet with people on these issues. For one of the first times in the last 40 years, I am not teaching this semester. I am in the process of trying to retire, again.

This is probably more details than you want. Pardon me for any errors I made in trying to quickly describe this fast moving train; I welcome your corrections and additions. Please confirm your intention to join us in Jenner. I offer this email so that you can get a sense of what might happen and how you can contribute to it. I would welcome any responses and would encourage you to Reply All to this email, so that we are all on the same page. I can also be reached on my landline at 707-829-8185. I get up before dawn most mornings. I will be here today until about 8:45 a.m. and after about 1 p.m. I go to sleep around 9 p.m.
I welcome your responses,

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